Cecilia Fire Thunder believes that stopping sexual violence, domestic assault and incest — and caring for its victims –needs to rise to the top of the political agenda on the Pine Ridge reservation. Today she is being impeached.
Cecilia Fire Thunder’s impeachment hearing was scheduled for today. She was suspended as chairman of the Oglala Sioux Nation following her public statement that despite South Dakota’s abortion ban, abortions could be performed on reservation land. The reason the tribal council gave for suspending her was that she had solicited donations for the Sacred Choices Wellness Center intending to offer abortions there. Fire Thunder says she never solicited those donations and I believe her. I think some of them probably were sent to her in response to posts written by white feminists bloggers.
According to an article published on June 28 in the Indian Country Times, the actual conflicts and issues around these events have been obscured by feminist bloggers and by the Christian Right as well. I urge you to carefully read this article for yourself. According to Fire Thunder and other women present during the interview with Indian Country Times, 87 percent of women on the Oglala Sioux reservation have been sexually abused, many of them as children. Fire Thunder calls the molestation and incest of children “sexual deviancy,” rape the “ultimate subjugation” and says the extent of the problem on the reservation is revealed by women in drug and alcohol treatment, many of whom describe bearing the children of their male relatives. She says abortion rights, girls’ and women’s sovereignty over their own bodies, are critical and essential for these rape victims.
But not all the women on the Pine Ridge Reservation agree; more significantly, the tribal council does not agree. The council has issued a statement opposing abortion. Women leaders in the tribe are calling for a vote on abortion and want the vote limited to women only. They say that many women support Fire Thunder and would vote for her, but do not want to speak out now, given the intensity of the conflict. According to the article:
Norma Rendon, who works in a domestic violence shelter run by the nonprofit Canleska Inc., spoke scornfully of the men, including some tribal council members who have been quoted in the local newspapers, for talking about women’s business.
”I may not be for abortion,” Rendon said. ”I had six children. I raised all six by myself without any kind of financial or emotional support. But I can’t make that choice for other women.”
Former tribal council member Deb Rooks-Cook, whose father was once tribal chairman, remembered calling on the council to take a stand against sexual violence 20 years ago.
But he told her not to expect any response. She remembered him saying, ”You’re talking to the perpetrators.”
…Fire Thunder said she is spending time in prayer and seeking guidance in anticipation of her June 30 impeachment hearing. She acknowledged that her term has been tumultuous, though other leaders say there are people who would criticize Fire Thunder for issues as innocuous as the color of shoes she might wear on a given day.
…Fire Thunder said she was inspired to speak out against South Dakota’s abortion ban by Tex Hall, the former National Congress of the American Indian president, who in 1999 brought the organization’s first resolution against domestic violence. Fire Thunder remembered tears filling her eyes as Hall, in his customary cowboy hat and boots, expressed outrage over the abuse of women and children.
She was left with the belief that national Indian leaders must acknowledge abuse if communities are going to end it. More than that, she talks about the need for recognition of ”women’s sovereignty,” which is the right of women to make decisions for their own bodies.
”We’re in the middle of a quiet revolution,” Fire Thunder said. ”And it’s awful painful.”
Read the entire article here.
Many thanks to Rich Leader of Adonis Mirror for sending this link to me.